In light of Tuesday’s elections, feeling a bit discouraged about our quest for equality is hard to avoid. But something that happened the day before elections is a sign that some of the biggest steps toward acceptance of the full spectrum of sexual identity are being made at the grassroots level.
For the past two years, Kay-Kay Allums has played guard for the George Washington University women’s basketball team, last year as a starter for 20 out of 28 games. Fans saw Kay-Kay as an outstanding female player. But last year, Allums’ teammates learned that he was only female on the outside. In every other way, he identified as male.
This year, Allums starts under a new name: Kye. He also starts as the first publicly transgender person to play NCAA Div. 1 college basketball.
As a kid, Allums was a tomboy and felt more like a boy than a girl. He and his mom tried to fem him up with make-up and dresses, but he just didn’t feel right. In high school, Allums met others kind of like him: lesbians. So, for a few years, he identified as lesbian. He felt more at home with lesbians, but the older he got, the less he fit in.
Ironically, something his mom said turned on the light for him. According to outsports.com, the two were arguing via text when his mother wrote, “Who do you think you are, young lady?” Suddenly everything became clear to him — he wasn’t a young lady at all.
Kye started to come into his own during his sophomore year. He told his teammates that he was a man in a woman’s body and once they realized he was serious, they were the first to correct pronouns and tell people Kye was a guy. But coming out to his coach, Mike Bozeman, was trickier, since Bozeman is vocally religious. The conversation was challenging, but ended with the coach’s assurance that he loved and supported Allums.
Allums is at GWU on a women’s basketball scholarship — and that’s the only way he can attend the school. If he were banned from the women’s team, he’d lose his scholarship. But NCAA rules allow Kye to stay on the team as long as he remains physically a woman, i.e., he can’t take testosterone.
The Associated Press report gives us a good look at how the university has accepted Kye and his philosophical attitude toward the restrictions. (Fair warning: If you watch it on You Tube, do yourself a favor and skip the comments.)
To me, this is a remarkable story. Just last month, The National Center for Lesbian Rights and It Takes a Team released “On The Team: Equal Opportunity for Transgender Student Athletes,” a little over a year since Caster Semenya’s “gender tests.”
The report examines the rules and regulations on trans athletes at colleges throughout the U.S. (It does not include intersexed persons such as Semenya.)
Until now, the NCAA has deferred to individual colleges to decide how to handle transgender athletes. But with more people identifying themselves as transgender, “On The Team” recommends standardized policies. The report covers everything from legal considerations to locker room access. I highly recommend downloading and reading the report — it is much more than a look at policies for trans athletes; it’s an education in transgender issues.
One thing is certain: a lot of folks are talking about Kye Allums right now. And some of them are young athletes who know their bodies don’t correspond with their gender identity. I’m glad they have someone like Kye to emulate, because our understanding of transgender individuals is just beginning.
Join me in wishing Kye — and others like him — the best. And share your thoughts in the comments.